Quota issue drove Mujati away
Brian Mujati (Getty Images)
Cape Town - Former Springbok prop Brian Mujati has admitted that South Africa's quota system prompted him to further his career abroad.
Mujati, 28, left South Africa to play for English club Northampton Saints in 2009. The burly front ranker, who was born in Zimbabwe, played 12 Tests for the Springboks - the last coming as a substitute in a 42-6 victory over England at the end of 2008.
However, as a black player in a predominantly white team, he realised he was only being picked to satisfy a racial quota system.
"We played against Scotland, Bismarck du Plessis got injured in the first minute and I played the rest of the match," he told the Daily Mail's website
"We won, then our last Test of the tour was against England. On the Monday, I came down to breakfast and found out they had flown in Jannie du Plessis from South Africa. I thought, 'All right, he is here as cover', but in training Jannie was doing all the drills, then they announced the team and Jannie was starting. I felt really let down.
"South Africa pick guys because of their race, because they’ve got to have two or three black guys in the squad. It became clear I was one of those selections. I called my agent and said I wanted to leave."
Another factor to Mujati heading abroad was the controversy surrounding his estranged father’s role in seizing land from white farmers in Zimbabwe.
"The story broke in South Africa that my father had been involved in land-grabs and was using that to fund my career. A guy whose farm was taken by my father wrote about what happened. He had a son who played rugby.
"In the week leading up to my first Test for the Springboks, he was saying that there were so many opportunities his son could have had if my father hadn’t taken his farm. I didn’t even know where my father was. I tried to let it blow over, but it escalated. So when I left South Africa I was relieved and thought that everyone would just leave me alone.
"As time wore on, I realised that there was nothing I could do. I haven’t seen my dad in over a decade, but somehow he was supposed to have been funding me! I have stopped being angry about all that."
Mujati flourished in England, and admitted he had a big desire to prove the Springbok selectors wrong. "I wanted to play well and have them come and beg me to play for the Springboks again. It was a stupid thing to think!"
But the Springboks did come knocking and he was offered a starting role for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
However, his comeback was blocked by new rules which meant he needed a South African passport and, despite input from government ministers and the SARU’s best efforts, he was denied one.
"For me, that was the end of the road with the Springboks. Mentally, I had to give up on it. But in a way, knowing that they wanted me back was enough."
Mujati will leave Northampton in the European summer to join French club Racing Metro.